River Heights Book Review

The books you'll want to read.

SHADOWSHAPER by Daniel José Older

Shadowshaper_cover-SHADOWSHAPER by Daniel José Older
Arthur A. Levine Books
June 30, 2015

Sierra Santiago assumes she’s in for a pretty normal summer – until one of the murals down at the Junklot starts crying tears of paint, a zombie-like monster chases her through the streets of Brooklyn, and her grandfather, who’s hardly uttered a word since his stroke, starts speaking to her in riddles. While investigating this strange chain of events, Sierra discovers she’s descended from a long line of shadowshapers – individuals who can give form to the spirits of the departed – and that not only is she herself a shadowshaper, but someone is trying to wipe her kind off the map.

Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper is more than just a wildly imaginative urban fantasy geared toward young adults – it’s also a story about being true to yourself and being proud of you who are and where you came from. It celebrates all forms of artistic expression. It stresses the importance of family, friends, community, and cultural heritage. It reminds us to honor the dead, and beautifully illustrates the idea that those we love will always be with us.

Older has crafted a unique and complex mythology on which to base his tale, and he manages to educate his readers regarding its rules without ever resorting to info dumps. The book’s quickly paced, action-packed, and has a very strong sense of place. Sierra is a marvelous heroine – smart, brave, talented, and determined. Fellow shadowshaper Robbie isn’t just Sierra’s love interest, he’s also a nuanced and compelling character in his own right, and I love that his role in this tale is not to protect Sierra, but to fight alongside her. And the book’s supporting cast – from Sierra’s best friend Bennie, to her older brother Juan, to her crazy godfather Neville – is beautifully rendered, fully realized, and as diverse as the borough in which the book is set.


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This entry was posted on June 23, 2015 by in Fantasy, Reviews and tagged , , .
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